Archetonomy Mega Drop Down Review

Having usable and accurate navigation is essential to the success of your SharePoint site. SharePoint’s default navigation can be used to create concise main navigation menus, and can even support taxonomy via Managed Navigation. Visually & functionally, however, you’re limited to a simple 4-level deep flyout/dropdown menu for the main navigation. In the side Quick Launch menus, hierarchy can be implied with simple indenting of the text links.

In both of those main navigation areas of SharePoint, the out-of-the-box experience does have some definite UI and UX constraints.

The Mega menus concept

Now, mega menus are probably well familiar to anyone and everyone by now- it was an up and coming design trend back in the late 2000’s. Old hat – but let’s review the fundamentals of this design pattern first:

Typically, a mega menu:

  • is a single drop-down that appears on hover
  • shows all the options in one large panel
  • groups options into related categories
  • uses icons or other graphics to help the user.

They can succeed because:

  • They offer a good compromise between simple and expanding menus.
  • They are easy to use and should suffer fewer accessibility problems.
  • They can condense a lot of information architecture artifacts into a small amount of screen real estate

Mega menus done right
Mega menus gone WRONG
Mega menu best practices
Mega menus in Ecommerce – design Trends from 2011 vs 2014

Now, in the SharePoint world, there arose a number of solutions to be able to implement mega menu-style navigation systems in response to the growing demand. Some examples:

SharePoint Mega Menu from a DVWP and a List
BindTuning – How to use BindTuning’s Mega  Menu
Mega Menu for SharePoint

Finally, here’s a gallery of some SharePoint sites using mega menus, which are either custom coded or leveraging commercial mega menus:
SharePoint sites using mega menus

There are a plethora of other articles, posts and products relating to mega menus & SharePoint, for sure this particular links list could be a couple screens long. The vast majority do require a good knowledge of Javascript/CSS custom code, so in this review i’m focusing on the one commercial product I know of that offers a good compromise between ease of use and technical functionality.

The Archetonomy Solution

mdd2-pro-search

The Archetonomy Mega Menu system is a farm solution for on-premise SharePoint 2010, 2013 & 2016, and has the broadest feature set of  any 3rd party solution that I know of in this vein for SharePoint. After positive experiences with the product, I figure it’s time to give it a review.

Pros

  • Comprehensive What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get administration/design interface
  • Styles can be applied ad-hoc, with inline or formalized CSS, or a combination of both
  • Import/Export of menu configuration as an XML file eases transitioning to different environments
  • Design workflow flexibility: Power users & less technical stakeholders can do initial mock-ups with the visual designer directly in the GUI, and then hand it over to a front-end developer to formalize CSS later

Cons

  • While the drag and drop and visual design surface (which shows real-time X/Y coordinates of menu elements) increases efficiency and overall ease of use, it’s tedious to get everything to line up pixel-perfect when doing manual designs. What would really help is the ability to select multiple elements and align them left/right/top with one click, as can be done in programs like Visio, Photoshop etc.
  • Archetonomy Megamenus are currently only for on-premise SharePoint. Office 365 SharePoint Online is not currently supported. I did hear that a SharePoint Online version might be in the works but have not seen an update about that.

Dynamic Content

  • Links & content in the menu can be displayed dynamically, either individually or in sections, based on:
    • Content search queries, for example:
      • query selects the top 10 most downloaded documents from the HR department
      • selects results based on what logged In user is currently viewing the page (e.g. the last 10 documents I personally accessed)
    • Managed Metadata tagged content: the hierarchy of words that reflects organizational structure, business units & concepts can be reflected in the menu
    • Managed Navigation (TermStore): The specialized portion of Managed Metadata that is focused on site navigation, can be used. This gives special advantages like being able to use “friendly” URL’s.
    • SharePoint list managed navigation (with folder grouping): Standard SharePoint Lists can be used as the place where links are added. This gives the special advantage that the admin can assign certain user permissions to edit that list, allowing isolation of edit rights for the overall menu:
      • For example, the admin could add a section of links in the Marketing Department section of the main menu, which draws its data from a SharePoint list in the Marketing Departments site collection. A user in Marketing with basic training on how to work with SharePoint Lists, could be delegated access to be able to add/edit/remove links from that SharePoint List. This user would not be able to edit anything else in the main menu system other than the links generated by their specific SP List.
    • Three-level hierarchy (List Panels): It’s possible to maximize “screen real estate” and offer a richer selection of content, by adding an interactive Panel bar section. When a user clicks on a horizontal link section, the related content area displays in the same dropdown. In this way we can multiply the amount of content that can be displayed in single, fixed size menu dropdown area:
    • Publishing Pages: When this section is added to menu, it will automatically display all pages in the current Sites Publishing Pages Library, which is the standard place where SharePoint Publishing Pages are created. This makes it simple to render the most typical type of SharePoint CMS content.
    • Audiences, which are predefined groups that users can be added into, for example a typical use case could be “New Hires”, whereby any user in that group is shown menu content & links focused on onboarding topics.
  • Search input boxes can be added anywhere inside the dropdown menu, with the search boxes optionally sending users to specialized search results pages. For example, a search input box inside a HR Department menu dropdown, could send the user to a search results page focused only on HR-related content

Design & Ease of Use

  • Standardized CSS can be used, for example as part of a Branding Solution. In this way, when one adds a new links or content, it can already by default inherit the overall corporate branding styles.
  • Content and site designers can design and create menus directly in the browser without needing to write HTML or CSS
  • Although designing and building menus with Mega Drop Down for SharePoint is not difficult, building highly functional menus requires several skillsets. While the same person can represent many of these skillsets, identifying these roles upfront will further increase your menu’s adoption rate:
    • Information Architect – Responsible for understanding what content exists within your site and defining what options are available for accessing content.
    • UI Designer – Responsible for designing an intuitive and effective interface.
    • UI Developer – Responsible for implementing the design. This person is typically responsible for building the HTML and CSS.
    • Menu Administrator – Responsible for managing the links and updating navigation content.
      • Menu Sub-Administrators– Users in the organization who are granted selective access to add or edit only certain portions of the menu, such as a user in the Marketing Department given access to edit just links & content in that section of the menu

License Manager Installation Guide
Mega Drop Down Installation and User Guide
Product Release Notes
Video Tutorials

 

Conclusion

Although it’s a shame there’s not a SharePoint Online version of this, it’s still a powerful menu system for those with on-premise SharePoint. The ability to visually design the menu layouts and content is a big win, especially for rapid prototyping – although one needs to consider carefully how much the design should be controlled by manual activities vs how much should be put on rails by creating formal CSS rules.

Being able to add complex controls like Search Inputs, or deliver link content based on Content Search queries can help create truly useful navigation systems. With mega menu powers, comes mega responsibilities: putting everything including the kitchen sink into a menu navigation system also can create it’s own user experience issues, so one has to to be mindful that underlying usability is paid attention to.

 

Microsoft Ignite Conference 2015 Roundup

Here is my presentation from last weeks Victoria Office 365 User Group in Victoria, BC.

“Microsoft’s Ignite Conference in Chicago last month was a huge event- 23,000+ attendees -and a lot of genuinely interesting technology news came out of it . I’ll share with you here my take on the big items of the event, flavoured through my lens of SharePoint/Office 365.

The core concepts: Microsoft is taking a mobile-first, cloud-first approach with three top priorities: to usher in an era of more personal computing, to reshape work and productivity with enhanced products and processes, and to build trust in a reliable, extensible cloud service offering.

What’s more, for us here in Canada, a lot of these announcements take on huge new relevance as Microsoft just announced on June 2 (http://reimagine.microsoft.ca/en-ca/) that they are opening data centers located on our soil. This opens up the doors to a Government and Private industry base that previously had been not able to leverage these services.

I will talk a bit on the upcoming on premise version of SharePoint 2016, the latest in Office 365 (including Delve/Office Graph), and more. ”

Speaker:  Keith Tuomi, FCV Interactive
Duration: 30 minutes
Audience: Business Professionals (Managers, Project Managers, etc.)
Technical Level: 200

Microsoft Ignite Conference: Day 1 One Round-Up

Microsoft’s Ignite was a huge event- 23,000+ attendees -and a lot of news came out of it on day one. I’ll share with you here my take on the big items of the day, flavoured through my lens of SharePoint/Office 365.

Since there was so much going on, i’m going to break it out into day-by-day posts- easier to digest and gives me time to collect my thoughts after being hit on the head with a Chicago-sized Microsoft frying pan. 🙂

The core concepts: Microsoft is taking a mobile-first, cloud-first approach with three top priorities: to usher in an era of more personal computing, to reshape work and productivity with enhanced products and processes, and to build trust in a reliable, extensible cloud service offering.

Let’s get started. First, check out the official Microsoft news homepage for the event at http://news.microsoft.com/ignite2015/

Here’s a selection of  some of the hot sessions now available from Day 1:

Also available in the on-demand recordings is the Monday morning keynote, which was delivered effectively by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and the evening keynote hosted by Harry Shum titled The Next Era of Computing: Seeing the Future Before It Happens.

spark the future
First, a little recap on the sheer scale of the event. 23,000 of some of the world’s best IT Professionals in one spot, yet the Borg-scale capacity of the McCormick + Lakeside Conference Centers seemed hardly enough:
stack overflow

The keynote began on the upswing, with a DJ pumping out music to many, many IT peeps who are perhaps used to a little more mellow entrance in Monday Morning: 🙂

A pretty unexpected kick off to the keynote: The rapper/Artist know as Common takes the stage and delivers some inspiring words:
common

Soon thereafter, the big boss Mr. Satya Nadella took the stage.

Satya Nadella

1

Announcements:

Office 2016 Public Preview
Skype for Business broadcasting
Office Delve Org Analytics
Office-Delve-organizational-analytics-screenshot
SQL Server 2016 on-premise Azure (if you want the deep-dive version, check here: http://www.brentozar.com/archive/2015/05/reading-the-sql-server-2016-data-sheet/)
Windows users can try Office 2016 and its new desktop co-editing feature
Microsoft launches Operations Management Suite to deal with infrastructure across clouds

Quotes:
“Move IT from delivering services in our org, to delivering transformation and innovation.”
“Mobile first, cloud first – but it’s not about the mobility of a single device. It’s about the mobility of the experience. It’s about the cloud back end, and adding intelligence to your experiences.”
“MobileFirst is not about a device, it’s about sharing computing across all the experiences in our life.”

“Social collaboration and co-creation are at the core of what we do.”
“There are going to be more devices than people on the planet.”

“Exchange, Skype for Business and OneDrive span both your personal and work life”
“The next version of SQL Server is considered a breakthrough.”
“It is important to us to build trust into the core of the operating system…that’s not a bolt-on, you have to build that in.”

There was a brief unscripted comedy moment when Mr. Nadella was describing a scenario where Delphi software would allow one to know exactly when their partner was coming home:
Delphi

Joe Belifiore

– Joe says about 5-8% of users use Alt-Tab to switch between apps. Adding multiple desktop support. Hold down control/Windows/right-arrow and switch between desktops, or left-arrow to go back. Dragging an app from one desktop to another got the first spontaneous audience applause.
– Demos Cortana, and Cortana driving PowerBI
– Demos Continuum, a new way of changing the Windows user interface to change between tablet mode and laptop mode depending on how you hold the device
– Demos Windows Hello, a new facial recognition authentication mechanism that works through the webcam. Takes a cloth off a webcam, and it unlocks his laptop in a matter of seconds without the user doing anything.

.. at this point I had to move on to the rest of the Conference –

The Evolution of SharePoint

– OneDrive integration improvements are a big priority for the SP team
– Experiences, Extensibility & Management are the core principles
– On track in development efforts for delivering SharePoint Server 2016 next year
– Cloud-inspired features eventually will make their way back into the server product. Functionality that doesn’t make it into the server will be offered as Office 365 services that can be leveraged by premises-based systems
– Microsoft is continuing to focus on SharePoint’s Files, Content Management, Sites and Portals components going forward. It plans to make it easier to use hybrid architectures (SharePoint Server plus Office 365 services) and make it easier for organizations to perform migrations when they are ready, according to Seth Patton, global senior director for SharePoint and OneDrive product marketing
– A new About Me next-generation portal coming to SharePoint Server 2016. It uses Microsoft’s Delve content discovery tool, based on Office Graph enterprise search technology, to surface content and organizational information. Microsoft is also planning to ship an upgrade to SharePoint Server 2013 that will enable the Delve portal for those organizations that can’t wait for the release of SharePoint Server 2016.

Information Management with Office 365 in Mind

The Next Era of Computing: Seeing the Future Before It Happens

All in all, a heavy duty day full of news, connections and learnings. Day two recap coming tomorrow, subscribe to my blog to stay looped in!